May 20, 2013

Cursing Across The Centuries

Language, even grammar, in every culture changes constantly, but did you ever consider the idea that our sense of how proper....

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Posted by mmorf at 09:20 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2013

Punctuate With Personallity

It has been said that sanity is perhaps the ability to punctuate.

I'd have to agree. Any language is made up of grammar and vocabulary. But how do we...

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Posted by mmorf at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2012

Politics And Language - Then And Now

Politics is central to human history and culture. As I write this, the United Sates (and many observers around the world) are...

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Posted by mmorf at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2012

Politics And Language - George Orwell

Politics and rhetoric have gone hand in hand for millinnia. Politicians have special words - almost code - to speak to certain audiences. George Orwell, as always....

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September 02, 2012

More On Words and Numbers

Some scholars consider mathematics its own language. Perhaps it is, but...

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August 23, 2012

Crazy Spelling

Standard spelling is difficult enough in English, but then when you think about...

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July 17, 2012

Paper Worksheets And Hand-outs - Still Useful?

Technology is wonderful, and I try to use almost every form of teaching materials, but I must admit that...

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March 29, 2012

Do You Sound Like A Native Speaker?

It's one thing to get vocabulary and grammar right, but it is whole other...

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January 14, 2012

Least Favorite Grammar Rules

Do you have a grammar rule you don't like? I don't mean a rule that truly makes sense or has a logical explanation...

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December 21, 2011

Word Of The Year?

Every year about this time, various groups think and talk about the words that have emerged or gained new meaning in the year just ending. In a previous post...

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December 06, 2011

More Traits Of A Master Teacher

In my previous blog, I explored a few aspects of a good teacher. There are several more that I have observed, in fact here are...

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November 25, 2011

In Bad Taste - Disgusted

Words change meaning over time and we might read a word in a classic piece of literature, Shakespeare for example, and find that...

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November 19, 2011

Something, Anything, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody

Something, anything, somebody, anybody, nobody; How do I keep these strange indefinite collective nouns straight?

As much as I love English, these words seem to be the hardest to learn - and certainly...

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Posted by mmorf at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2011

Macro And Micro English

Do you speak Macro English?

One important concept in learning any language is the distinction between the Macro (the big picture) and the Micro (the detailed, specific individual) picture.

What does that even....

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September 30, 2011

What's In A Name?

Have you ever thought about what we call things?

In my introductory English classes, when we talk about parts of speech, I emphasize that nouns...

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September 10, 2011

September 11th

There are some events that resonate around the world, that make us...

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September 06, 2011

Grammar And More Grammar

Grammar is essentially how words stick together. You might even think of grammar as...

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September 01, 2011

Grammar Make You Crazy?

Even many of my native English speaking students struggle with grammar. What could be so difficult about how...

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August 12, 2011

Cultivating Your Voice

I love working with words - whether written or spoken - but it only really matters how we as individuals...

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Posted by mmorf at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2011

Lesson Plans - Starting A New School Year

In the Northern Hemisphere at least, it's that time of year again. Yes, it is time to think about a new...

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June 23, 2011

Where Words Come From - Part 14

One of the most frustrating things - and also one of the most enchanting things about the English language is how active, dynamic it can be in terms of...

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March 05, 2011

DIY - Do It Yourself Film

It seems that everybody loves films - but could anyone make a film? Here are some resources - from some professionals - on how (almost) any of us could...

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Posted by mmorf at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2011

The Oscars - Script To Screen

It seems that every body loves movies. We love to watch them, we love to talk about them, and some of us even like to...

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Posted by mmorf at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2011

Know Any Bad Writers?

Believe it or not, there's an art, sort of, to bad writing. Mediocre writing seems to come naturally to many writers. Good writing takes skill and work. But really, really bad writing requires...

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Posted by mmorf at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2011

Accelerating Vocabulary Development

There are many ways to help students acquire and expand their vocabulary. I focus on root words, prefixes and suffixes. But how does a teacher accelerate vocabulary development? My personal philosophy is that we can learn from...

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Posted by mmorf at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2011

Can You Write A Good Sentence?

You might think writing a sentence is easy. In a way, of course, it is. What could be simpler than...

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Posted by mmorf at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2011

Got A Budge? How About An Aglet?

I don't know about you, but my life is full of all kinds of, well, stuff. Do you have lots of things you use every day, but you don't know what to...

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September 17, 2010

A Modest Proposal

Ever wonder how you would design your own language learning program? Sometimes I think that it just might work to...

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May 03, 2010

What Does That Word Mean?

Ever try to figure out what a new word might mean?

I run into new words all the time - and even more often - I explain words or word histories...

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October 10, 2009

I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself a Letter

"I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter" - besides being a popular song from many years ago, might even be an interesting idea - or at least a writing assignment....

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September 21, 2009

Twenty Questions

To inspire discussions or writing for English learning students, I have found open-ended questions to be a good place to start.

I have found that a little introductory discussion can help a student with a context and a framework to continue developing...

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February 27, 2009

British VS American English

Learning a new language is always a daunting challenge. The English language is difficult enough to learn even without the usual differences in accents and regional variations. And then there is the never clear, and always confusing set of differences between British and American….

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February 08, 2009


If you are learning English American-style, you are likely to run into words like this.

This particular word just came to me but....

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May 10, 2008

Lesson Plans - Guessing unknown words from context

Hello Readers,

If you have students who are constantly looking up words in their dictionaries during class, then you can probably appreciate how frustrating unknown words can be for language learners. The fact of the matter is that English is a living language, which means that new words are constantly being added to it. What does this mean for speakers of English (both native and non-native)? Simply put, there will always be new words to learn. That being said, ...

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March 22, 2008

Lesson Plan - Job Interviews

Hello Readers,

If you're teaching adults who are interested in using English at work, this lesson plan on job interviews should prove to be a relevant and worthwhile lesson for your students. To start: ...

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January 31, 2008

Lesson Plans- Culture Quiz

Hello Readers,

As an ESL teacher, you have inevitably dealt with other cultures. If you are teaching monolingual classes in another country, it's likely that you will have to adapt much more than your students. If you are teaching multilingual classes at home or abroad, it will be just as important for your students ...

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December 28, 2007

Lesson Planning – Reported Speech

Hello everyone,

Valentine's Day may be over for 2007 but the subject (as a cultural studies element of ESL teaching) can be used anytime, especially in countries that don't know the holiday or are taking classes in a semester that does NOT include the month of February. Let everyone have a chance!

So, here's a twist on the Valentine’s day theme. This involves the "end" of relationships.
I start the lesson by giving some phrases that people say to end relationships and what they really mean, such as . . .

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December 15, 2007

Lesson Plan Activity- CALL lab peer feedback

Hello Readers,

Many of you have probably heard of CALL, but do you know what it means? It stands for Computer Assisted Language Learning, which to many technophobes sounds rather technical. However, it is something not to be feared, but ...

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October 30, 2007

Lesson Plan Activity- Learning Style Quiz

Hello Readers,

Do you know what your personal learning style is- reading/writing, auditory, visual or kinaesthetic? Are you aware of your students' learning styles? Do you take them into account when planning your lessons? Finding out about your students' learning styles can actually make an interesting and useful lesson plan. To do this,...

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September 27, 2007

Lesson Plans- Citations/References (EAP)

Hello Readers,

Teaching students how to cite their sources for a research paper can be a daunting task. Many teachers are tempted with the idea of simply giving the students a self-study for the students to work on in their own time. However, with some guided practice, you can ensure that your students will be confident...

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August 22, 2007

Lesson Plans- Questionnaires

Hello Readers,

This lesson is for those of you who are preparing your students to write research papers, whether it's in a writing class, a foundation year class, or an EAP class, though it could also be used to some extent for teaching adverbs of frequency (e.g. always, sometimes, never). Teaching your students about questionnaires is a great way to...

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July 15, 2007

Lesson Plan Activity- Holiday Itinerary

Hello Readers,

While many English language schools come complete with a computer lab, few teachers seem to take advantage of such a facility. Perhaps you'd like to start utilizing computers into your classes, but aren't sure where to start. Well, here's a sample lesson plan that...

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June 04, 2007

Lesson Plan Activity- Student Quizzes

Hello Readers,

I currently have an advanced group of learners who are avid readers and fantastic debaters. Although there are plenty of brilliant texts in advanced level ESL textbooks, current and authentic texts that I bring in for them are received with much more enthusiasm than most texts that can be found in their textbook.

Finding appropriate texts for the advanced class is not difficult (in fact, part of my Sunday morning routine now includes clipping a few articles from the morning paper that relates to the topic, vocabulary, or grammar points that they're learning in class). However, creating questions and exercises for the articles can be...

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May 04, 2007

Lesson Plan Activity- Learning Strategy Awareness Training

Hello Readers,

Do you think your students might benefit from learning how to learn? Are your students aware of the different learning strategies that they use? More importantly, are you aware of the different strategies that students use in order to develop their language skills?

The focus of this lesson plan is helping students to become aware of different language learning strategies and training them in how to use those strategies effectively. The first thing you need to do is to...

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April 03, 2007

Lesson Plan Activity- Reading/Writing Activity

Hello Readers,

Think about the following situations:
* deciding which article to read in a newspaper
* finding out if a food item contains nuts
* looking up a phone number in a phone book
* checking to see what the film critics say about a movie you want to go and see
* reading a novel on the beach
* reading a chapter in a textbook for school

Do you use the same skills to read each one? If you are an effective reader,

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March 02, 2007

Lesson Plans- Telephone Practice

Hello Readers,

Giving students the opportunity to practice speaking on the telephone can be beneficial to them in many ways. Some students need the practice so they can call up their international friends, others need the practice for their job, and others need the practice so they can get through day to day living with ease.

One school that I worked at actually had a telephone room where students could use a real phone to dial up other students in the class; however...

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January 29, 2007

Lesson Plans- Teaching Parody Through Newspapers (Advanced)

Hello Readers,

A few months ago, I picked up a copy of "Private Eye", a British satirical magazine. Being an ESL teacher, I immediately thought about my students. If they read this magazine, what would they think about it? Would they know that the articles are simply mocking other news stories? Would they understand the humor? And if they did,...

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January 02, 2007

Lesson Plans- Animal Mingling Activity

Hello Readers,

Happy New Year!! Hope you enjoyed your celebrations for the new year and that 2007 treats you well. In regards to ESL, here's an easy and fun activity that you get your students to do at the start of a lesson...

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November 27, 2006

Lesson Plans- Describing Picture Scenes

Hello Readers,

Earlier this month, we talked about collecting authentic materials for your resource file. If you aren't sure where to start, here's an idea for you- collect a handful of pictures that have different scenes, for example, a beach scene, a busy street corner, a family's home, the base of a mountain, etc.

What's next? A simple activity that can get students talking, listening, reading, and writing. If you'd like to know more, read on for details...

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October 24, 2006

Lesson Plans- Houses

Hello Readers,

Last month, we talked about adding a bit of imagination into the young learners' classroom by introducing finger puppets to the students. Not only will the students enjoy making the puppets, they can also learn the names of body parts as well. Furthermore, the puppets can be used in future lessons to encourage the students to practice speaking. I've found this is especially useful for shy students who don't feel comfortable talking to other students.

Well, this month, we're going to look at an extension to this project, by looking at how to make...

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September 22, 2006

Lesson Plans- Toilet Paper Roll Puppets

Hello Readers!

Last summer, I taught a group of young learners ESL from 8:30 am to 3:15 pm every day, Monday through Friday, for a full month. This was the first time in years that I'd had the same group of students for such a long period of time, day in and day out. While I loved every minute of it, there were moments (usually at my lunch break) where I didn't think I'd ever find enough material and activities to keep the students interested in the class. Somehow, I found a creative activity for the students to do each afternoon- and actually that need to be creative was one of the aspects of teaching the summer camp that I really enjoyed.

Do you need another activity for young learners? If so, continue reading to find...

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July 25, 2006

Lesson Plans- Bingo Extensions

Hello Readers!

I've got two days left of teaching a class of absolute beginners, ages 6-7, and have done nothing in the last month but eat, sleep, teach, and think up ways of entertaining/educating the little darlings. Perhaps you are currently in the same situation- or will be doing something similar in the near future. If so, I imgaine that you might find a few extensions to the classic BINGO game beneficial to your sanity!

B-7, I-13, N-23, G-34, O-56... Is this really such a great game for teaching English? Well, to start with...

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May 29, 2006

Lesson Planning - Teaching Pronunciation

Hello Lesson Planners,

Many ESL students (especially those from certain regions of Asia) tend to be nearly obsessive about grammar in ELL – in fact, you may find that they know far more about English grammar then you do. You know how to use it – most of them have had the rules of grammar drilled into them for many years. It is a bit humbling to have someone in halting English explain some arcane nuances of grammar in your own native tongue.

My experience is that ESL students have difficulty in two major areas – and grammar is not one of them. They generally have problems with . . .

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April 29, 2006

Lesson Planning - Beefing up the ESL Textbook

Hello Lesson Planners,

One thing I really like doing here is taking a basic lesson from a book and beefing it up. For example I was teaching Middle school aged learners at a winter camp a few weeks ago. We were following a text book that was very grammar centric and contained many exercises. Rather than only do what was written in the teachers guide I tried many different activities that were related to what we were studying.

When we did the unit on “did” I had them . . .

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November 25, 2005

Lesson Planning - Using Halloween for ESL Class: Anytime!

ESL Halloween.gif

"There is nothing funny about Halloween. This sarcastic festival reflects, rather, an infernal demand for revenge by children on the adult world." ~Jean Baudrillard

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November 24, 2005

Lesson Planning - Impromptu ESL Teaching Demonstrations

"It usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech" ~Mark Twain

Hi friends,

Have you ever been asked to give an extemporaneous speech or to perform on the spot? How embarrassing is this if you don't feel prepared?

Presently, this is exactly what's happening in some ESL schools when job applicants are "invited" to an employment interview. Like the ESL students who are often asked to demonstrate their English language abilities (so that they can be properly placed), potential ESL teachers can also be expected to be held to a similar standard by demonstrating their teaching ability. Plus, if the ESL school has organized these interviews wisely, they could theoretically charge students for a pre-semester session of ESL classes while getting some free labor from their ESL instructor applicants (let's hope that schools aren't really doing this!) . . .

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November 14, 2005

Lesson Planning - Encouraging ESL Students to Talk

"Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names" ~ John F. Kennedy

Hello everyone,

Ever wonder what to do on the first day of class? Nervous about remembering new students' names? Well, the first day of class is the perfect opportunity to satisfy both of these apprehensions.

In the last newsletter (here), I offered one of the first-day-of-class lessons I like to use in the ESL classroom . . .

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November 06, 2005

Workplace Issues - ESL & PowerPoint Presentations

"Professors known as outstanding lecturers do two things; they use a simple plan and many examples." ~ W. McKeachie

Dear Readers,

If my memory doesn't fail me, it seems that the business types latched on to this technology first, the publishing field being no exception. The administrative branch of the school system used it to “preach” their new policies to the faculty branches.

When their use first became prevalent in teaching, I thought that they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. I still use them a lot, not only for course lectures but also for conference presentations, etc. If you suffer from stage-fright, it certainly gives your “audience” something to look at besides yourself! Even more importantly, as the quote suggests, they keep any “lecture” you feel compelled to impose upon your class "simple" by sticking to a planned outline and even entertaining with the ability to use graphics, examples and even “quotations” as writing prompts. I shouldn't even have to make a comparison to the expense or making (and trouble of making) overhead transparencies, the older method.

Apparently, students are now being prepped to . . .

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August 23, 2005

Lesson Planning - Take Your Students Shopping!

Hello everyone!

Shopping anyone?

Teaching about American money can be as boring or exciting as you make it. Instead of just having your students memorize what coin has what value and then simply answer when asked, why not make it fun? And what better defines fun than a shopping trip? Here’s how it works . . .

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July 21, 2005

Lesson Planning - Breaking the Ice on the First Day of School

Good morning everyone!

The first day of school is upon us, and it doesn't matter whether you're an experienced teacher or a new one--you're likely to have the first day jitters.

But guess what? So are your students! Just as you’re waiting to get a feel for your new students, they are watching you to see what type of teacher you’re going to be . . .

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July 14, 2005

Lesson Planning - Incorporating Writing

Good morning everyone!

If you do polls at the beginning of your classes asking students what they most want to get out of your class, you likely see "writing English" on the lower list of expectations. Why?

Too many students focus on speaking the language, and don't seem to care about the other important aspects of learning a new language. I don't know about you, but whenever I have tried to incorporate writing lessons into my curriculum, I'm always met with groans from the students.

Until I figured out how to sneak it in! I asked my students to . . .

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May 17, 2005

Lesson Planning - Do Your Students Use Prediction For Comprehension?

Hi everyone!

Here's a lesson that I use over and over again with great success!

We all know that being able to predict what comes next in a story is a major part of listening and comprehension when learning a foreign language. And unfortunately, this is what many ESL students seem to have the greatest trouble with. I use this great method to get my entire class involved in the process. But be aware! Even your shyest students will pipe in with this one! Start by . . .

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